OK Boomer! New Zealand in the Swinging Sixties

From Nine To Noon, 11:30 am on 22 December 2020

It was the time of pixie cuts, miniskirts, Beatles fanaticism, marching bands and men on the moon. The Swinging Sixties turned 60 this year - and Ian Chapman has marked it with a book jam-packed with photos, essays and funny personal experiences of the decade.

Chapman is an author, musician and lecturer at Otago University, and his love of pop culture led him to seek out contributors from all walks of Kiwi life for the book - which is perhaps provocatively called 'Ok Boomer'. Yes, the now infamous utterance by Green MP Chloe Swarbrick in Parliament in response to a heckler provided the inspiration for the title.

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Photo: Sharron Bennett

Chapman joined Kathryn Ryan for a walk down memory lane and, born in 1950, he was around for pretty much all of it.

“I thought it’d be great to go back to my childhood and I was looking at the book very much through a child’s eyes and I think that comes through a little.

“It’s such an amazing decade I thought it’d be great to do a really vibrant book full of photographs.”

He says there are a few events from the 60s that are seared onto his memory such as the moon landing and the Wahine disaster.

“There are certain big events from our history, but the overriding thing I recall from my childhood, and something I’m extremely grateful for, was the simplicity of my childhood.

“We were in a dead end street and there was a huge gully down the back of all of our houses and all of us kids, every weekend, would disappear into this gully and we’d be gone for pretty much all day. Our mums would holler from the back steps for us to come back and get lunch so we’d troop back up to the houses then go back into the bush. We were on our own, we were experimenting, we were having a great time.”

As a dad himself, he sees his own children living complex lives with devices and social media.

“The simplicity of my childhood, that’s what really stands out for me.”

However, Chapman says he’s tried not to look at the 1960s with too much nostalgia or through rose tinted glass. Metiria Turei, for instance, has contributed to the book to discuss issues facing Maori throughout the 1960s and talks about how much the activism and movements in the 1970s had their seeds planted in the 1960s.

“It wasn’t perfect by any means but we have come a long way looking back at it.”

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The author with his 1970 Triumph Herald in Dunedin. Photo: Mark McGuire

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